Mike’s phone call caught me taking a car full of kids to the cinema, but I was able to offer to pick up the cardboard container of bees from him and foster them whilst they are waiting onward deployment. After getting everyone home, and supper, I set off to Sarah’s to collect a suitable 10 bar box that I’d left at hers. She is now custodian of a late split I made in June last year, that had survived the winter in the box, and it had been left at hers to allow stragglers to move out at the end of their transfer to her hive. Once home with the box it was dark and the transfer could begin.
I got everything I would need together next to the box. I found a broken piece of comb from an exercise earlier in the week (another post I think) and tied it onto a bar with garden string poked through the comb with a pencil. I found enough spare bars to cover the top of the box (another lesson learned the hard way), secateurs to cut away any hedge clippings that might be in the container, and a knife to open the container with. I set the garage light to stay on and off we went.
I set half the bars onto the box, including the one with the tied on piece of comb. The bees now had a dark area to settle into, with comb ready for the queen to start laying into straight away, that smelled of ‘bee’ - all ways to encourage the colony to decide that this would be their new home and make them less inclined to abscond. Then I opened the cardboard container to see what surprises Mike had passed on. There was very little vegetation in the container so I was able to tip the bees straight onto the box and let them begin to find their way inside. The benefit to doing this in the dark is that the bees are less inclined to fly as they can’t see. However the downside is that it makes it more difficult for me to see them when they do. At this point, as I was bending down to check on progress, I hadn’t noticed a bee caught in a fold of suit material on my leg which I then leant on and got a sting for my trouble - another lesson learnt. With the bulk of the bees now working their way into the box, and many signs of fanning that shows ‘this is home’, the long wait could begin. I opened up the other end of the container and tapped out the last stragglers onto the box and then went inside to find a good film and a cup of tea for an hour.
At a suitable point in the film I went back out to check on progress. The bees were mostly in the box or sheltering in a small cluster under the end of the bars. I fitted all but the last bar onto the box. I then scooped a handful of bees onto the top and waited whilst they made their way in. Once the last ones were in I fitted the last bar and cleared the tools away. I know that some bees will be sheltering under the hive as it has a screened bottom. When I move it into place in the morning I will remember to be suited up so that these loose bees won’t do any harm and can be moved safely with the box to their new location here for their fostering.
If you already have bees yourself please consider splitting them over the next few weeks so we can pass viable colonies on to others later in the year. You can always ask for help if you are not sure what to do and, with a little notice, I can build suitable boxes ready for you. If you have need of bees and don’t already have any to work with, please make sure you have added your details to the comments on the ‘Bees Wanted’ page with this years date.